QLogic rolls out InfiniBand network optimization software

Updated fabric management software can control traffic at the host and in the network

QLogic has unveiled InfiniBand Fabric Suite (IFS) 6.0, a new version of its management software that automates network provisioning for high performance computing (HPC) clusters.

The updated offering automates the provisioning of bandwidth both at the host system and in the network, allowing network administrators to allocate more throughput for I/O-intensive applications or applications deemed more important based on policies. Version 6.0 also allows for load balancing across an entire HPC InfiniBand network.

Craig Alesso, director of product marketing in QLogic's Network Solutions Group, said such tools become vital as HPC environments grow because data traffic becomes more difficult to manage and allocate efficiently and "the communications burden diminishes their effectiveness."

The new software, which runs on servers and InfiniBand switches, has three basic capabilities: Create Virtual Fabrics; Adaptive Routing and Dispersive Routing, Alesso said.

Similar to Fibre Channel, InfiniBand is a dedicated, high-speed switched architecture that connects processor nodes and high performance I/O nodes such as storage devices. Host Fabric Cards, like network interface cards or host bus adapters, handle the connectivity between host servers, InfiniBand switches and backend target storage devices.

IDC has projected that sales of InfiniBand technology will grow from $94.9 million in 2006 to $612.2 million in 2011.

QLogic said IFS 6.0's ability to create a virtual fabric allows network administrators to dedicate classes of service within the network, which will ensure that the desired level of bandwidth and appropriate priority classes are applied to each application. In addition, the virtual fabrics capability helps eliminate the need for manual provisioning of application services.

"An InfiniBand fabric now can be segmented to allow some resources to be allocated for specific computing tasks and to isolate them from other resources in the fabric," Alesso said. "It allows you to segment one InfiniBand fabric for one class of performance and capabilities from others."

InfiniBand switches generally contain ASICs with 36 ports, each able to control I/O throughput. IFS 6.0's Adaptive Routing feature allows the ASIC to recognize throughput data on all the ports, looking for congestion and distributing traffic in the fabric to ensure it takes the best route.

"It's a capability that shifts network traffic from overutilized links to less utilized links," said QLogic spokesman Steve Zivanic.

Zivanic used a freeway analogy to describe Adaptive Routing, saying there are many potential driving routes between two cities to choose from when traffic becomes too congested on one of them. "There are also many routes between nodes in a cluster, and Adaptive Routing moves the traffic between two nodes from one path to another, like moving your car from the grid-locked freeway to the fastest road available," he said.

The software's Dispersive Routing capability takes adaptive network routing to the host server, affording even more granular control of network traffic -- it lets the server specify what path a series of packets can take through the network.

For example, if Dispersive Routing balances a network load over four server links, it would provision each to handle 25% of I/O traffic. At that point, the Adaptive Routing feature would take into account other host traffic in the network, and further load balance the traffic for the best possible performance, Alesso said.

"Effective fabric management has become the most important factor in maximizing performance in an HPC cluster investment and as clusters scale, issues like congestion mitigation and QoS can make a big difference in whether the fabric performs up to its potential," said Addison Snell, president of InterSect 360 Research, in a statement. "With IFS 6.0, QLogic has addressed all of the major fabric management issues in a product that in many ways goes beyond what others are offering."

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